Knowing Who Your Suppliers Are – Onsite Visits – Part II of II

May 17th, 2011

Today’s post is by Mark Davis; Vice President of Operations and CTO at SafeSourcing. Mark asks "How much do you know about your suppliers and have you ever visited them?"

Last week I posted a blog about the importance of onsite visits with your suppliers, how to prepare, what to look for, and the value of performing these visits.  This week we will be taking a look at some of the additional things that you need to think about when visiting a supplier in another country.

Visits to international sites will need to encompass the same types of information gathering as a domestic one such as reviewing the cleanliness of the facilities, observing production, logistic and storage processes, but there 3 important areas that must be considered in addition to these that may determine the success or failure of the visit.

Language – Assuming you are visiting a supplier that is not located in a predominantly English-speaking country, the capability to communicate onsite is an important one that should be addressed well in advance of the visit.  Many times the supplier will have staff that is fluent in more than language and can act as an interpreter, however procuring your own interpreter is also a suggestion and possibility. Also, some basic considerations of your own communication style would be to speak more slowly than usual and pause in between sentences to be understood more easily.

Culture – This is an important area to prepare for because in some countries seemingly minor things can create a tense atmosphere.  Determining whether to bow and the details surrounding when and how, if the country shakes hands when they greet and which hand they shake with are all important items in some countries and should be learned prior to your visit.  On the other hand, it is equally important to note the things that are normally unaccepted behaviors in the U.S. which many times are not viewed the same way in other countries.  Americans would generally never answer a phone call in a meeting or show up to an appointment late, but in other countries these behaviors are far less important and frequently occur during the course of doing business.

Capturing the details – Visits to international suppliers generally come with a price tag that is not insignificant to your company, so capturing as much data as possible is important on these visits.  Wherever you go during your visit take a notepad and camera with you to record what you see and hear while on the visit.  Many manufacturers will allow you to take occasional pictures as long as you ask in advance and have it cleared.  Some may not allow it and others may allow it as long as no employees are included in the pictures.  Capturing these details will be very useful to you and your team in the future and can potentially save trips for other employees in the future.

Onsite visits to your suppliers are incredibly valuable and important to your organization and are a terrific tool for knowing who your suppliers are and how they do business.  They are also important forums to gather details necessary for later contract negotiations.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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